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Breaking Barriers: The Journey of a South Asian Leader in the VAWG Sector

In a world where gender equality remains a pressing issue, the fight against violence against women and girls (VAWG) is of utmost importance.

Within this critical sector, being a South Asian leader comes with its own set of unique challenges.

From bias and imposter syndrome to the struggle for opportunities that match our capabilities, the journey is often an uphill battle.

In this blog, i will delve into the experiences and barriers I faced myself as a South Asian leader in the VAWG sector and explore the resilience required to overcome them.

Being a South Asian leader in the VAWG sector often means navigating through biases rooted in cultural, racial, and gender stereotypes.

The intersectionality of these biases can create barriers in various aspects of professional growth.

For instance, my ideas and perspectives may be dismissed or undermined due to preconceived notions about my cultural background or assumed lack of expertise.

In order for me to overcome this bias has required me to assert my value, challenge stereotypes, and educate others about what I as Meena Kumari can do and am capable of doing.

  1. Imposter syndrome affects professionals from all walks of life, and for years I never knew what this feeling of should I be at this table, job or meeting actually was called.

    The pressure to excel, combined with cultural expectations and the fear of not measuring up, really undermined my confidence.

    I have questioned my own abilities, attributing achievements to luck rather than competence – which is wrong right?

    Overcoming imposter syndrome has required me recognising my own accomplishments, seeking support networks, and reframing self-doubt as an opportunity for growth.

    Also even the notion of Imposter syndrome I now reject was this developed to always keep women that look like me at the bottom.

    I will always remember an academic who I admire greatly telling me it doesn’t exist it’s just something forced on us and we need to stop questioning ourselves. (Great advice right?)

  2. Despite being skilled and a capable leader, I have faced challenges in accessing opportunities that align with my expertise.

    Structural barriers, lack of representation, and limited networks has impacted my progress. Why do you think I also set up the national H.O.P.E calls during lockdown and the networks? If there is no opportunity for me out there I’m going to set up my own!

    I believe it is so vital to seek out opportunities, build connections, and advocate for ourselves. Leveraging our unique perspectives, cultural insights, and diverse skill sets, we can contribute significantly to the sector and inspire others to do the same.

  3. One of the keys to overcoming barriers as a South Asian leader in my sector lies in fostering collaboration and mentorship.

    By connecting with like-minded individuals and organisations, we can amplify our voices and increase our collective impact. Engaging with mentors who have navigated similar challenges can provide invaluable guidance, support, and inspiration.

    I will always be grateful to the mentors I have and have had Sandra Pollock is a great example of this and I always will recognise what she has done for me. Embracing collaboration and mentorship enables us to build a robust support system and drive positive change within the sector.

As a South Asian leader i have faced unique barriers stemming from bias, imposter syndrome, and limited opportunities that match my potential. However, by confronting these challenges head-on, asserting my value, seeking support, and embracing collaboration, I feel I can break down barriers and create meaningful change.

Like the saying goes not all superhero’s wear capes some wear Sari’s.

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